Organizers work to get crowds back to festivals

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

Oct. 15, 2017 at 9:49 p.m.
Updated Oct. 16, 2017 at 11:15 a.m.

Hyrum Ripa, 10, rides a mechanical bull at Bootfest.

Hyrum Ripa, 10, rides a mechanical bull at Bootfest.    Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

Vivian Woods lost about two weeks of business because of Hurricane Harvey, but as a last-minute vendor at Bootfest, her boutique was introduced to new customers.

"The storm impacted my store. Not a lot of people want to go out and shop. People take care of priorities, their homes, (first)," said Woods, Mamasitas Boutique owner. "A lot of people found out about the business - especially the folks from out of town."

Woods was asked by city officials to attend Bootfest as a vendor the week before because another boutique vendor canceled, she said.

With October being a busy month for community festivals, many organizers are worried the crowds will not return as the Crossroads continues to recover from Hurricane Harvey.

One group canceled its festival.

Many organizers see their festivals as a chance for residents to take a break from storm recovery and relax for a few hours at the community events.

"People might be displaced and are still trying to recover, but at the same time, it's about time to shake all that badness off and get ready for some good times," said Cory Thamm, Cuero Turkeyfest board member.

Bootfest

Despite Harvey stealing two weeks of planning for Bootfest from city officials, it was a success, said Joel Novosad, Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau director.

Bootfest came at the right time to give residents and visitors a break, he said.

"Bootfest is a free festival, so we could provide that time to relax - a good, safe, fun experience for Victoria that I think people needed following Harvey," he said.

Attendance numbers for the festival haven't been released yet, but city spokesman O.C. Garza said this year's numbers are comparable to last year's. He estimated more people attended this year's Friday night than last year.

Between 23,000 and 26,000 people attended Bootfest last year Friday and Saturday night.

The festival was short about 100 volunteers from the usual amount, Garza said, and two of the four vendors who canceled weren't replaced.

During Bootfest, five hotels in town were closed, which caused about 300 hotel rooms to be unavailable to visitors, Garza said. Hotel rooms are hard to find in the area because many construction workers are visiting to help repair homes, and displaced families are staying in rooms as well, he said.

The city hosts a softball tournament every year during Bootfest weekend. Only 20 teams competed this year compared to 50 last year.

Teams canceled because they couldn't find anywhere to stay, Garza said.

Novosad's office was closed for about a week, and the following week, officials had to respond immediately to recovery needs.

Officials doubled down to get everything done before the festival, Garza said.

"During the most critical planning (time) of Bootfest, (we were) paying much more attention to Hurricane Harvey," he said.

Flip Flop Festival

Down U.S. 87 in Port Lavaca, Harvey substantially damaged the city's two spaces where a festival can be held: Bayfront Peninsula Park and Lighthouse Beach.

Port Lavaca's Flip Flop Festival was planned for Labor Day weekend but was canceled immediately after Harvey, said Tania French, Port Lavaca event committee chairwoman. City officials originally planned to reschedule the event but decided last week they wouldn't have one for 2017 and will resume the festival in 2018.

Both parks won't be fully opened until early 2018 after repairs are made, said City Manager Robert Bradshaw.

"Our community as a whole and our city crews are busily working to get the community functioning," French said. "(We) have far more important things to be working on than a festival right now."

Returned entry tickets will be refunded, and kept ones can be used to get into the 2018 festival, French said.

"2018 will be bigger and better, and people will have that to look forward to," she said.

Texas Mile

Although Harvey damaged some Texas Mile equipment, event co-owner Shannon Matus plans to host a larger event Oct. 27-29 than in March.

Spectators come to the event to watch registered vehicle owners speed down the Victoria Regional Airport runway as fast as they can. A Ford GT driver who reached 293.6 mph at the event in March wants to beat 300 mph this time around.

Harvey damaged some equipment that was stored in trailers in Victoria, but it will be repaired in time for the event. Machinery that times each vehicle wasn't damaged, Matus said.

Hours after tickets to register vehicles went on sale this summer, the spots sold out, Matus said. No one has contacted Matus to cancel, and one man whose car was heavily damaged is working to get his vehicle replaced before the event.

"The majority of our enhanced plans we were trying to do for this event still seem to be coming together," she said. "People want to jump on board and make things happen."

The Boys and Girls Club of Victoria board members and volunteers will sell alcoholic beverages, which weren't sold at the March event.

Matus expects thousands more people a day to attend than in March, when the event saw about 5,000 attendees each day.

A week after Harvey hit the Texas Coast, Matus hosted the Colorado Mile in Colorado while Houston was flooded, which is where she and her husband live. The couple committed to the Colorado event as they did for Victoria's.

"We have a wonderful opportunity to make an impact in so many different ways and provide a celebration. It's like saying, 'Harvey, you can't get us down,'" she said. "To bring a lot of economic impact after Harvey - that's a big thing. We feel very responsible for making sure we put on a bigger and better show that helps your community."

Turkeyfest

Turkeyfest treasurer Brenda Martin said Wednesday all vendor and barbecue team spots were booked for the festival, which took place during the weekend.

"I don't see Harvey impacting our Turkeyfest," she said. "We will open the gates to everyone to come out and have a good time."

Thamm, who raises turkeys for the festival, said although the pens were damaged during the hurricane, all the birds were left unscathed.

The storm took about three weeks of preparation time from board members, Thamm said. All the members sustained some type of damage to their homes or surrounding trees.

"It hurts especially when you're only about 30 days out," he said.

Committee members had to cross over and help with each other's jobs to complete all their tasks in time for the festival, Thamm said.

"It took a lot of team work to get everything done," he said.

Thamm estimated about 8,000 people attended Turkeyfest last year.

Yorktown Western Days

Some vendors who planned to attend Yorktown's festival, to be celebrated Oct. 20-22, were greatly impacted and are doing their best to bring the inventory they have, said Tammy Bitterly, Yorktown Western Days Association executive director. Only one vendor asked for a refund.

"We have done our best to focus our attention on other areas with our promotional efforts," she said. "It would be selfish of us to expect our coastal neighbors to patronize our event."

Kolache Fest

Kolache Fest in Hallettsville was not affected by the hurricane.

Crowd estimates show more people attended this year's Kolache Fest than last year, said JoAnn Shimek, Hallettsville Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Kolache Fest on Sept. 30 had more barbecue and domino teams and car show participants than in the past.

The chamber was closed for one day because of the storm, so officials still had enough time to plan for the festival.


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